Lunch with Leaders: One Home
A Quick Bite with Teresa Sal + Rey Faustino
Every month, we invite an inspiring leader or two from our grantee portfolio to join us in the Tipping Point Cafe. Our “Lunch with Leaders” series is an opportunity for our team to hear directly from those on the ground in the fight against poverty, to learn what they’re most excited about, and what keeps them hungry to do more.
Unfortunately, affordable housing in the Bay Area is difficult to come by. But thanks to One Home, a new digital tool created by two Tipping Point grantees, the process of searching for it has gotten a little easier.
The project is the result of a partnership between Compass Family Services, one of the oldest resources in San Francisco for homeless families, and One Degree, a web and mobile platform that makes it easy for low-income individuals to find, manage and share social services information.
Rey Faustino, CEO + Founder of One Degree, and Teresa Sal, case manager at Compass, recently joined us to talk about how their partnership is changing the game for families in need.
Q: Why did you start working together to build One Home?
Teresa: Right now, the waitlist in San Francisco for shelters for homeless families with children is between six months to a year. These families are really in dire situations, living in emergency shelters that have mats on the floor, night by night unsure where they’re going to go. Others are in vehicles or overcrowded spaces. All of these families want a stable, safe place for their kids to live.
Rey: A couple of years ago we noticed that about a third of the searches through One Degree were housing-related. It was the most common search by far. We learned from our community partners already using One Degree that a lot of people were using this monthly listing from Compass Family Services. It was literally a printout of a PDF, an actual piece of paper. People wanted us to just post the PDFs, but we approached Compass about how we could work together to make the listings even better.
Teresa: As a case manager, before One Home, the process of looking for housing was more difficult. We had a paper list I’d use to search for a property that fit the family sitting with me at the time, and then go online and use Google Maps to see where it was and if it was near BART. Then I would have to request an application from the property or from a housing specialist. The family would have to come back the next week to sit down again and fill it out with me, or I would send it with them and then maybe they’d bring it back. With One Home, all that information is in one place, making it easier to access and track applications.
Q: How has One Home made it easier to search for affordable housing?
Teresa: The ability to have the visual of what Rey just described has been so helpful. Most of us have done housing searches, but usually you look at listings based on the rent you want to pay. For the population we’re talking about, that doesn’t make sense, because that’s not how affordable housing is allocated. It’s based on your income, and how that compares to the poverty line or the local median income. That’s what allows you to qualify or not.
Rey: One Home starts by asking how many people are in the family, and then their income. That’s critical because there are a lot of very complex algorithms and criteria that different properties have and it can be very confusing.
To put that in context, getting a below market rate rental apartment in San Francisco requires filling out a 20 to 30-page application and entering a lottery. But even if you win the lottery, you have to be eligible to get the apartment. Last year, for instance, an apartment building with 40 units became available in San Francisco and over 6,000 people applied — but 90% of them weren’t even eligible, which means they wasted two or three hours on an application. Now, we can automatically let people know whether or not they’re eligible for a particular property.
You also can see a huge map of the Bay Area. Let’s say somebody is interested in a particular property — they can click on the location, look at pictures, see if there are any public transit lines there, and all the information that has been put out about it.
Teresa: Most of the families we’re working with can no longer afford a permanent place in San Francisco but they’re staying here, working here, their children go to school here. There is so much fear about moving outside the city, even to Oakland, because it’s unknown. But when they can see places on the map, look at pictures, see the BART stations that connect them there, they go from feeling forced out to feeling like they want to live there, that they have some choice in this.
Q: What was the most important aspect of working together?
Rey: Collaboration. We knew it wouldn’t have worked if we went to Compass and said “Hey, let’s overhaul this huge system that you guys have been using for a long, long time.” We wanted to do this project in a collaborative way so that it would be wanted by and useful to both of us. And it was really a breath of fresh air to work with Compass. Their team is so open and very forward-thinking.
Teresa: I was very impressed at how they came in and really tried to work with us. They asked what our needs were and tried to understand what our process had been thus far. They were brainstorming alongside us instead of dropping a new tool in our laps. And the same was true with our users and clients, who got to test it out and then One Degree made improvements and changes based on that feedback. They really came to understand our work through the whole process.
Q: What has the response been like?
Rey: In the first six months after we launched One Home, more than 10,000 people used the platform to do more than 40,000 searches for properties. So far, 5,000 housing applications have been downloaded, which is about 800 per month.
Q: What’s the next step?
Rey: We’re launching a way for families to not only find but also track their housing applications so they don’t have to worry about having a single place to manage it all. And we’ve started to talk about a streamlined application process, something like the common app for colleges. San Francisco has already started this process and created a short-form application that we can directly use. That way, we can save families a lot of time and connect them to properties where they are actually eligible.
Teresa: A childcare search would be great. Families are not only searching for housing, but other resources too. Finding childcare is just as complicated as housing when your income is very low. You have limited choices and, like housing applications, every preschool, every childcare has a different system, different way. There are different subsidies. It’s complicated. If we could even just get childcare providers to put their information all in one place, it would be pretty nice.
Visit One Home to learn more.